Jim Lobe, Lobelog, July 09 2017:… Putting aside the question of just how popular or unpopular Madam Rajavi is in Iran for a second, there are a number of truly remarkable things about Lieberman’s speech. How much will it help “the resistance” in Iran to be seen as supported by the Saudis and the “Arab nations?” And how will it help to boast about Israel’s assistance when most Iranians already …
New Neocon Mantra: Iran, like Soviet Union, on Verge of Collapse
Iran hawks suddenly have a new mantra: the Islamic Republic is the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, and the Trump administration should work to hasten the regime’s impending collapse.
It’s not clear why this comparison has surfaced so abruptly. Its proponents don’t cite any tangible or concrete evidence that the regime in Tehran is somehow on its last legs. But I’m guessing that months of internal policy debate on Iran has finally reached the top echelons in the policy-making chaos that is the White House these days. And the hawks, encouraged by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s rather offhand statement late last month that Washington favors “peaceful” regime change in Iran, appear to be trying to influence the internal debate by arguing that this is Trump’s opportunity to be Ronald Reagan. Indeed, this comparison is so ahistorical, so ungrounded in anything observable, that it can only be aimed at one person, someone notorious for a lack of curiosity and historical perspective, and a strong attraction to “fake news” that magnifies his ego and sense of destiny.
This new theme seemed to have come out of the blue Tuesday with the publication on the Wall Street Journal’s comics—I mean, op-ed—pages of a column entitled “Confront Iran the Reagan Way” by the South Africa-born, Canada-raised CEO of the Likudist Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), Mark Dubowitz. I wish I could publish the whole thing (which is behind a paywall), but a couple of quotes will have to suffice:
In the early 1980s, President Reagan shifted away from his predecessors’ containment strategy toward a new plan of rolling back Soviet expansionism. The cornerstone of his strategy was the recognition that the Soviet Union was an aggressive and revolutionary yet internally fragile regime that had to be defeated.
Reagan’s policy was outlined in 1983 in National Security Decision Directive 75, a comprehensive strategy that called for the use of all instruments of American overt and covert power. The plan included a massive defense buildup, economic warfare, support for anti-Soviet proxy forces and dissidents, and an all-out offensive against the regime’s ideological legitimacy.
Mr. Trump should call for a new version of NSDD-75 and go on offense against the Iranian regime.
…the American pressure campaign should seek to undermine Iran’s rulers by strengthening the pro-democracy forces that erupted in Iran in 2009, nearly toppling the regime. Target the regime’s soft underbelly: its massive corruption and human-rights abuses. Conventional wisdom assumes that Iran has a stable government with a public united behind President Hassan Rouhani’s vision of incremental reform. In reality, the gap between the ruled and their Islamist rulers is expanding.
….The administration should present Iran the choice between a new [nuclear] agreement and an unrelenting American pressure campaign while signaling that it is unilaterally prepared to cancel the existing deal if Tehran doesn’t play ball.
Only six years after Ronald Reagan adopted his pressure strategy, the Soviet bloc collapsed. Washington must intensify the pressure on the mullahs as Reagan did on the communists. Otherwise, a lethal nuclear Iran is less than a decade away.
Dubowitz, who clearly has allies inside the administration, asserts that parts of this strategy are already being implemented. “CIA Director Mike Pompeo is putting the agency on an aggressive footing against [the Iranian regime’s terrorist] global networks with the development of a more muscular covert action program.” Dubowitz predictably urges “massive economic sanctions,” calls for “working closely with allied Sunni governments,” and argues—rather dubiously—that “Europeans …may support a tougher Iran policy if it means Washington finally gets serious about Syria.” As for the alleged domestic weaknesses of the regime, let alone its similarity to the USSR in its decline, he offers no evidence whatever.
Takeyh Joins In
I thought this was a crazy kind of one-off by FDD, which, of course, houses former American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Freedom Scholar Michael Ledeen, who has been predicting the imminent demise of the Islamic Republic—and Supreme Leader Khamenei—for some 20 years or so. Ledeen also co-authored former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s bizarre 2016 autobiography and no doubt tutored the NSC’s 31-year-old intelligence director, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, whose conviction that the regime can be overthrown has been widely reported.
But then a friend brought to my attention a short piece posted Wednesday on The Washington Post’s website by Ray Takeyh, a Council on Foreign Relations Iran specialist who in recent years has cavorted with Dubowitz and FDD and similarly inclined Likudist groups, notably the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). Entitled “It’s Time to Prepare for Iran’s Political Collapse,” it also compared Iran today with the Soviet Union on the verge.
Today, the Islamic republic lumbers on as the Soviet Union did during its last years. It professes an ideology that convinces no one. It commands security services that proved unreliable in the 2009 rebellion, causing the regime to deploy the Basij militias because many commanders of the Revolutionary Guards refused to shoot the protesters.
…Today, the Islamic republic will not be able to manage a succession to the post of the supreme leader as its factions are too divided and its public too disaffected.…
The task of a judicious U.S. government today is to plan for the probable outbreak of another protest movement or the sudden passing of Khamenei that could destabilize the system to the point of collapse. How can we further sow discord in Iran’s vicious factional politics? How can the United States weaken the regime’s already unsteady security services? This will require not just draining the Islamic republic’s coffers but also finding ways to empower its domestic critics. The planning for all this must start today; once the crisis breaks out, it will be too late for America to be a player.
Once again, actual evidence for the regime’s fragility is not offered. Indeed, although he claims that the 2009 “Green Revolt” “forever delegitimized the system and severed the bonds between state and society,” he fails to note that May’s presidential election resulted in a landslide win for President Hassan Rouhani with 73 percent voter turnout, or that reformist candidates swept the local council polls in most major cities, or that the leader of the reformist movement, leaders of the Green Movement, and prominent political prisoners encouraged participation. Nor does he address the question of whether Washington’s intervention in Iran’s internal politics—in whatever form—will actually help or harm efforts by the regime’s “domestic critics” to promote reform, particularly in light of the recent disclosures of the extent and persistence of U.S. intervention in the events leading up to and including the 1953 coup that ousted the democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadeq. Or whether last month’s terrorist attack by ISIS in Tehran might have strengthened the relationship between society and state.
This is not to deny that the regime is both oppressive and highly factionalized, but why is it suddenly so vulnerable—so much like the Soviet Union of the late 1980s—compared to what it was five or ten or 20 or 25 years ago? Only because Khamenei is likely to pass from the scene sooner rather than later? That seems like a weak reed on which to base a policy as fraught as what is being proposed.
Again, I’m not sure that this Iran=USSR-at-death’s-door meme is aimed so much at the public, or even the foreign-policy elite, as it is toward the fever swamps of a White House run by the likes of Steve Bannon or Stephen Miller or Cohen-Watnick. But here’s why a little more research into the new equation really got my attention.
And Also Lieberman
Dubowitz’s article, it turns out, was not the first recent reference. The most direct recent reference was offered by none other than former Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who incidentally is one of three members of FDD’s “Leadership Council,” in a speech before none other than the annual conference of the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) and its cult leader, Maryam Rajavi, outside Paris July 1. Seemingly anticipating Takeyh (plus the Rajavi reference), Lieberman declared:
Some things have changed inside Iran, and that’s at the level of the people. You can never suppress a people, you can never enslave a people forever. The people of Iran inside Iran have shown the courage to rise up… To just talk about that, to just talk about that, to hold Madam Rajavi’s picture up in public places, is a sign of the unrest of the people and the growing confidence of the people that change is near. The same is true of the remarkable public disagreements between the various leaders of the country…It is time for America and hopefully some of our allies in Europe to give whatever support we can to those who are fighting for freedom within Iran.
He then went on, “Long before the Berlin Wall collapsed, long before the Soviet Union fell, the United States was supporting resistance movements within the former Soviet Union”—an apparent reference, albeit not an entirely clear one — to the Reagan Doctrine and its purported role in provoking the Communist collapse.
And, in a passage that no doubt expressed what at least Dubowitz and his allies think but can’t say publicly at this point:
The Arab nations are energized under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince [Mohammed] bin Salman. [Saudi Prince (and former intelligence chief) Turki Al Faisal Al Saudi addressed the “Free Iran Gathering” just before Lieberman.] They’re more active diplomatically and militarily as part of a resistance against the regime in Iran than we’ve ever seen before. And of course for a long time the state of Israel, because its very existence is threatened by the regime in Iran, has wanted to help change that regime. So you have coming together now a mighty coalition of forces: America, the Arab world, and Israel joining with the Resistance, and that should give us hope that we can make that [regime] change.
Putting aside the question of just how popular or unpopular Madam Rajavi is in Iran for a second, there are a number of truly remarkable things about Lieberman’s speech. How much will it help “the resistance” in Iran to be seen as supported by the Saudis and the “Arab nations?” And how will it help to boast about Israel’s assistance when most Iranians already appear to believe that the Islamic State is a creation of the Saudis and/or Israel? Is there any “mighty coalition” more likely to permanently alienate the vast majority of Iranians? Is it possible that the MEK has become an IRGC counter-intelligence operation? It’s very clear indeed that the group is lobbying heavily—and spending lavishly—to become the administration’s chosen instrument for achieving regime change. But advertising Saudi and Israeli support for the enterprise will likely make that goal more elusive. The MEK’s reputation in Iran was bad enough, but this is really over the top.
Lieberman no doubt received ample compensation for saying what he said. Other former prominent US officials, including John Bolton, Rudy Giuliani, and Gen. Jack Keane—all of whom probably have closer ties than Lieberman to the White House – also spoke at the MEK event, which, incidentally, makes me think that the White House is indeed seriously considering supporting the group as at least one part of its Iran policy. I suspect we’ll find out soon enough.
Reacting to the Tehran Attacks in Europe and the US
Eldar Mamedov, LobeLog, June 20 2017:… This matters, given the background of intense efforts over the years to de-legitimize the Iranian institutions, including the elected ones, with the aim of building support for regime change. The well financed exile dissident group Mojaheddeen-e Khalk (MEK), in particular, has developed a strong lobby in the European Parliament promoting this cause. The times, however, are changing. The images of Iranians voting in the …
Reacting to the Tehran Attacks in Europe and the US
by Eldar Mamedov
The European Parliament started its plenary session last week with a minute of silence to honor the victims of the recent terrorist attacks in London and Tehran. In this way, the EP has joined a number of other institutions, as well as leaders of the EU and its member states, in offering sympathy to the Iranian people.
For a country like Iran, which cannot boast of an abundance of international support and empathy, such a gesture from a leading Western institution was extremely valuable. The news and pictures of the minute of silence spread through the Iranian media immediately and boosted the good will towards the EU among the officials and general public.
There is a deep democratic significance for a parliament to offer its solidarity to a fellow parliament that was a target of a terrorist attack. In this particular case it also conveys a symbolic recognition by the European Parliament of the legitimacy of the Iranian parliament as a relatively democratic pillar of the Iranian political system.
This matters, given the background of intense efforts over the years to de-legitimize the Iranian institutions, including the elected ones, with the aim of building support for regime change. The well financed exile dissident group Mojaheddeen-e Khalk (MEK), in particular, has developed a strong lobby in the European Parliament promoting this cause.
The times, however, are changing. The images of Iranians voting in the last presidential elections, in a region where few other populations go to the polls, and re-electing their moderate president in a landslide, have certainly made an impact. They have also debunked, once again, the MEK’s claims that the Iranian elections are void of any meaning. In fact, such efforts are provoking a growing backlash among the Euro MPs.
In this context, the fact that the European Parliament perceived the minute of silence dedicated to Iran as completely “normal” and appropriate is itself a testimony of the changing climate in EU-Iran relations.
Contrast this with the attitude in the United States. Although the State Department did issue a proper statement, the majority in the Senate rejected the proposal of Senators Bernie Sanders and Diane Feinstein to postpone the consideration of new anti-Iran sanctions. Instead, the Senate overwhelmingly approved the measures the week after the attacks in Tehran—despite awarning from former Secretary of State John Kerry that it could jeopardize the nuclear agreement with Iran.
Such an attitude reflects Washington’s dominant view of Iran as a country unworthy of minimal sympathy even in such tragic circumstances. Hence, Trump’s infamous words about states becoming targets of the “evil they promote.” The sheer ignorance and insensitivity of these remarks is highlighted by the fact that the “evil” that hit Iran was also responsible for the terrorist attacks in America on 9/11 and in subsequent years in Paris, Brussels, London, Madrid, Manchester, and so on. Such attacks are not inspired by anything that has to do with Iran, but rather an extreme version of Wahhabism, the official creed of Saudi Arabia, whose vision for the Middle East Trump seems to have eagerly embraced.
In an irresponsible escalation shortly after the attacks, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hasendorsed the idea of a regime change in Iran. He issued his comment, ironically, on the same day that his State Department released documents pertaining to the role the US played in overthrowing the popular government of Mohammad Mossadeq in 1953, an event to which today’s poisoned state of the US-Iran relations could arguably be traced.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, by contrast, has reaffirmed once again the EU’s strong commitment not only to the nuclear agreement, but also to a deeper engagement with Iran in diverse areas, from economy and energy to conflict resolution in the Middle East.
Recent history, particularly the process leading up to the conclusion of the nuclear deal, suggests that when Iran is shown a modicum of respect and recognition, it is more likely to respond positively to the concerns of its international counterparts than when bullied and insulted. The EU way of showing such respect puts it in a much better position to persuade Iran to abandon some of its more objectionable ways than threats coming from Washington.
The US could have built on the channel established by Tillerson’s predecessor John Kerry with his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif in trying to solve outstanding issues, in particular regarding regional conflicts. Instead, the current administration is making sure not only to destroy that channel but also, with its callous and insulting response to the anti-Iranian terrorism, to create damage to US-Iranian relations that may well outlast Trump. This will not advance any of America’s core interests in the Middle East. However, there is nothing to suggest that this administration realizes that.
Photo: Federica Mogherini (Wikimedia Commons)
This article reflects the personal views of the author and not necessarily the opinions of the European Parliament.
About the Author
Eldar Mamedov has degrees from the University of Latvia and the Diplomatic School in Madrid, Spain. He has worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia and as a diplomat in Latvian embassies in Washington D.C. and Madrid. Since 2007, Mamedov has served as a political adviser for the social-democrats in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (EP) and is in charge of the EP delegations for inter-parliamentary relations with Iran, Iraq, the Arabian Peninsula, and Mashreq.
Fallout from Iran attacks spells trouble to come in wider Middle East
Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) is an Iranian terrorist group dedicated to violently overthrowing Iran’s government and which had been expelled from the country since the early 1980s. The Obama administration removed it from the US’s list of terror groups after an intense lobbying campaign in Washington DC, but its involvement in violence is well-known in Iran. In 1981, it was blamed for planting a …
Fallout from Iran attacks spells trouble to come in wider Middle East
Doctor in Politics at University of Oxford and Visiting Fellow at the American University of Beirut, University of Oxford
A week after Donald Trump stirred up tensions in the Middle East with his visit to Saudi Arabia, and just after Qatar was ostracised by several other countriesfor its supposed links to terrorism, a brace of terror attacks in Iran have turned up the heat even further.
In Tehran on June 7, four men attacked one of the gates of the Iranian parliament building. After opening fire on a guard, they entered the lobbies and shot a number of visitors and staff. After several hours and exchanges of gunfire, they were killed by Iranian special forces. At the same time, several attackers fired on visitors at the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic. All in all, the two events left at least 17 dead and more than 43 injured.
Iran’s Supreme Leader dismissed the attacks as “fireworks … too small to affect the will of the Iranian nation and its officials”. Sure enough, the display of unity inside Iran was immediate and powerful, with social media booming with expressions of solidarity and defiance of terror (#درکنار همیم)
The so-called Islamic State (IS) soon claimed responsibility for the attack, reiterating that “in the holy month of Ramadan the reward of killing misbelievers” – that is, the Shia Muslims who constitute the majority of Iran’s population – “is multiplied”.
If the claim of responsibility is to be believed, this isn’t the first time IS has invited its followers to exterminate Shia populations, or attacked them. In recent months, it has attacked a Shia neighbourhood in Baghdad, Iraqi Shia pilgrims near Damascus, and a 12th-century Shia mosque in Herat in Afghanistan. It also left a bomb near Shia stronghold al-Dahiyeh in south Beirut, which was found and dismantled.
The day after the attack, Iranian authorities announced that the terrorists were allegedly connected to Wahabi cells operating under the IS network in Mousul and Raqqa, and that they followed Abu Ayesheh, a high-ranking commander of IS, who had tried in August 2016 to carry out terror attacks in Iran’s religious cities. If this account is accurate, these were therefore IS’s first successful attacks in Iran proper.
That said, the attack was also sophisticated enough that it might have been beyond IS’s abilities inside Iran – and according to Iran’s own Ministry of Intelligence, the attackers were themselves Iranians. Given that IS doesn’t have a popular base inside Iran, this might point to the tactical support of the exiled revolutionary group MEK or the Baluchi separatist group Jundullah.
Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) is an Iranian terrorist group dedicated to violently overthrowing Iran’s government and which had been expelled from the country since the early 1980s. The Obama administration removed it from the US’s list of terror groups after an intense lobbying campaign in Washington DC, but its involvement in violence is well-known in Iran. In 1981, it was blamed for planting a powerful bomb in the headquarters of the ruling Islamic Republic Party, killing dozens of leading state officials.
Then there’s the Jundullah group, a violent separatist organisation that’s previously received the backing of both Saudi Arabia and the US in the hope of undermining Iran’s domestic security and stability. In 2009, it killed 42 Revolutionary Guards, including a top general, with an explosive device in a mosque in Baluchistan.
As with many terror attacks, the timing of these incidents is particularly relevant. The Revolutionary Guards’ statement after the attacks overtly connected them with Donald Trump’s visit to the Middle East, during which the US president met with his Saudi and Israeli counterparts and decried Iran for supposedly sponsoring terrorism and extremism – basically putting the country back in the George W. Bush-era “Axis of Evil” hall of shame.
This view has gained currency among several Arab countries since Trump’s election. Only a month ago, the Saudi crown prince, while ruling out any possible dialogue with Tehran,statedthat the struggle for regional influence will “take place inside Iran”, implying that regime change and support for armed resistance inside Iran were cards on the table.
When the latest attacks struck, the world’s major players found themselves on two sides. The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, condemned the attack and invited everyone to join forces to fight terrorism; the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, expressed solidarity with her Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and heads of state from all corners sent missives of condolence and support. Similarly, France, Italy, Germany as well as most of the countries in the Global South expressed their condolences to the Iranian authorities. The UK’s Theresa May remained silent, a sign that indicates alignment with the US-Saudi front.
In fact, the Saudi foreign minister declined to address Iran directly, while the Trump White House’s statement was predictably both pointed and tactless: “States that sponsor terrorism risk falling to the evil they promote.” Zarif, for his part, called the statement “repugnant” and claimed it was mounted by IS terrorists with US backing.
The rifts on display here are growing. On the one hand, as Iran-backed military efforts help drive IS back in Iraq and Syria, Tehran is starting to look like a logical strategic partner for the EU in its efforts against radical Islamist terrorism. But on the other hand, this is precisely the sort of cooperation that the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia are keen to curtail.
These hawkish powers look set to keep up sanctions on banking, threaten retaliation against companies willing to invest in Iran, invest in propaganda and intense lobbying, and may yet mount military operations, covert or otherwise.
Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia yielded a proposed but unconfirmed arms deal that the president announced would amount to more than US$110 billion. Whether or not that’s true is highly disputed, but as a statement of intent, it clearly signals where Trump’s sympathies lie as far as the Middle East’s major powers are concerned.
Hence, Tehran finds itself part of the web of terror attacks that had already touched upon London, Manchester, Paris, Kabul and many other cities. But the stakes at play here risk leading to a regional confrontation with dangerous international underpinnings.
Jihad 2.0: the Making of the Next Nightmare (Turning Albania to a centre for ISIS/Mojahedin Khalq)
Pepe Escobar, Sputnik news, June 01 2017:… Albania is being turned into the center of MKO. John Bolton was recently in Tirana, with other international supporters of MKO, and they are attacking Iran and calling for regime change.” The MKO’s wacky Marjam Rajavi has also visited Tirana, developing plans to “topple the Ayatollahs” in Iran. The key issue, as Jazexhi emphasizes, is that “after turning the Balkans into a recruiting centre for ISIS/Daesh during the Syria war, now the Americans are …
Jihad 2.0: the Making of the Next Nightmare
You are about to enter the ultimate minefield.
Let’s start with 28 EU leaders discussing the Western Balkans at a recent summit and blaming – what else – “Russian aggression” in the EU’s backyard.
Cue to a Montenegro prosecutor raging that “Russian state bodies” staged a coup attempt during the October 2016 elections to stop the country from joining NATO.
And cue to President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker warning that Donald Trump’s anti-EU rhetoric could lead to war in the Balkans. Juncker, condescending as ever, maintains that, “If we leave them to themselves — Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republika Srpska, Macedonia, Albania, all of these countries — we will have a war again.”
The Balkans may be about to explode – all over again. Yet with a twist; unlike 1999, NATO won’t get away with bombing a defenseless Belgrade for 78 days. A new generation of Russian missiles would easily prevent it.
The 1999 tragedy in the Balkans was essentially stirred up by fake massacres in Kosovo set up by the BND – German intelligence — using local Albanians and BND agent provocateurs, who shot both sides to stir up a war and break up Yugoslavia.
All Eyes on Albania
What’s evolving at the current geopolitical juncture is even murkier.
The usual suspects do what they usually do; blame Russia, and damn any evidence.
So let a knowledgeable insider, Dr. Olsi Jazexhi, director of the Free Media Institute in Tirana, Albania, be our guide.
As Dr. Jazexhi explains, “after Brennan left Edi Rama, Prime Minister of Albania, a close friend of George Soros, gathered all Albanian political parties in Macedonia and ordered them to support Zoran Zaev against Nikola Gruevski. Gruevski is seen as filo-Russian and anti-NATO, while Zaev is a lapdog of Soros. As a result, Gruevski was boycotted by Albanians and Zaev had their support to form a government. The promise of Zaev to Albanians is that Macedonia will adapt Albanian as an official language and create a third (half) Albanian state in the Balkans. Macedonians are resisting, but Tirana and Edi Rama are orchestrating Albanian political parties against Gruevski. The end game is to make Macedonia a NATO member.”
Jazexhi also details how, “in Albania, we have two major terrorist organizations being protected by the Americans and the Europeans.”
The first is what Ankara describes as the Fetullah Gulen Terror organization (FETO), allegedly instrumentalized by German intelligence; “Turkey is protesting why Albania hosts the FETO group but the Americans host them against Erdogan.”
The second is Mojahedin-e Khalq (MKO), which fights against Tehran; “Albania is being turned into the center of MKO. John Bolton was recently in Tirana, with other international supporters of MKO, and they are attacking Iran and calling for regime change.”
The MKO’s wacky Marjam Rajavi has also visited Tirana, developing plans to “topple the Ayatollahs” in Iran.
The key issue, as Jazexhi emphasizes, is that “after turning the Balkans into a recruiting center for ISIS/Daesh during the Syria war, now the Americans are turning Albania into a jihad 2.0 state.”
Meanwhile, the European Union and the Americans, who want to de-radicalize the Wahhabi Muslims of Europe, keep mum about the Iranian jihadis.”
The “Invisible” Enemy
But then there is the “invisible” enemy that really matters.
In late March, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic went to Beijing in his last official visit before the April 2 elections. Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed that economic cooperation with Serbia – and the Balkans at large – is a priority for China.
No question. In 2014, Beijing created a fund that will invest 10 billion euros in Central and Eastern Europe. Last year, China Everbright bought Tirana’s airport in Albania. China Exim Bank is financing highway construction in both Macedonia and Montenegro.
In Serbia, China Road and Bridge Corporation built the 170 million euro Pupin bridge over the Danube in Belgrade – a.k.a. the “Sino-Serbian Friendship Bridge”, inaugurated in 2014 and 85% financed by a China Exim Bank loan.
And the cherry in the (infrastructure development) cake is the 350 km, $2.89 billion high-speed rail line between Athens and Budapest, via Macedonia and Belgrade.
The EU has set off alarm bells on the flagship $1.8 billion Budapest-Belgrade stretch, investigating whether the Hungarian section violated strict EU laws according to which public tenders are a must for large transportation projects.
Inbuilt is the proverbial Western haughtiness, ruling that the Chinese could not possibly be capable of building high-speed rail infrastructure as well if not better – and for a lower cost – than in Europe.
Budapest-Belgrade happens to be the crucial stretch of the Land Sea Express Route that Beijing pledged to build, way back in 2014, with Hungary, Serbia and Macedonia. That’s the crux of the Southeastern Europe node of the New Silk Roads, now Belt and Road Initiative (BRI); a trade corridor between the container port of Pireus, in the Mediterranean – co-owned by China Ocean Shipping Company since 2010 – all the way to Central Europe.
NATO’s official spin is that it must be planted in the Balkans to fight the “threat of terrorism.” According to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, “I recently visited Bosnia Herzegovina and Kosovo, and I’m encouraged to see how focused they are on countering the threat of foreign fighters.”
Jihad 2.0 may be directed against Slavs in Macedonia, against Iran and against Turkey. Not to mention against the Russian underbelly. The invisible angle is that they can always be deployed to jeopardize China’s drive to integrate southeast Europe as a key node of the New Silk Roads.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.
Albania’s Anti-Trafficking Coordinator Elona Gjebrea praises Maryam Rajavi for keeping modern slaves in Tirana
Massoud and Anne Khodabandeh, Huffpost, May 18 2017:… In Albania, Elona Gjebrea also has close ties to the United States on the issue of people trafficking and slavery. The US embassy in Tirana, Albania acknowledged the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report in June 2016 by saying, “The United States appreciates the close cooperation with the Government of Albania, civil society and especially National …
Albania’s Anti-Trafficking Coordinator Elona Gjebrea praises Maryam Rajavi for keeping modern slaves in Tirana
Co-authored by Anne Khodabandeh
As democratic elections go, Albania’s upcoming parliamentary elections are as bad as it gets. Protests and turmoil have characterised the leadup to the June election. The official opposition is continuing a three-month boycott of parliament and is threatening to boycott the election itself. The protest is rooted in accusations of corruption and bias in the government of Prime Minister Edi Rama.
Ongoing and apparently unsolvable problems with the narco-trade and drug cartels, arms smuggling and people trafficking, add fuel to the corruption charges. Politicians from all sides appear unable to either successfully expose these crimes or escape accusations of collusion with them.
One example of the complexity of Albania’s difficulties can be found by examining the activities of Albania’s deputy Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, Dr Elona Gjebrea, who is also the Deputy Minister of the Interior. In March 2017, Gjebrea attended a Conference held by the Welsh Government and the UK Crown Prosecution Service which focused on the problem of Albanian slavery victims in the UK. More victims of modern slavery from Albania end up in the UK than from any other country – 17% of all UK cases. The introduction of the Modern Slavery Act in 2015 in the UK has greatly enabled anti-slavery groups and campaigners in confronting this problem.
In Albania, Elona Gjebrea also has close ties to the United States on the issue of people trafficking and slavery. The US embassy in Tirana, Albania acknowledged the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report in June 2016 by saying, “The United States appreciates the close cooperation with the Government of Albania, civil society and especially National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator Elona Gjebrea on our shared goal of combatting the global phenomenon of Human Trafficking.”
In December 2016, the United States allocated an additional $3m funding to support Albania’s “criminal justice system in the fight against organized crime and corruption”. Deputy Interior Minister Gjebrea welcomed the agreement and the resources.
So far, so good. Albania is apparently taking a strong stance against modern slavery and the US backs these efforts. But there is another side to this story. On January 16, 2017 Gjebrea, along with some other Albanian personalities, attended a clandestine music concert in Tirana hosted by the Iranian exile Mojahedin Khalq organisation (MEK) which is now based in Albania. Gjebrea claimed the Albanian people were in “solidarity with the Mojahedin”. Then, in March, she attended the MEK’s New Year rally with 3,000 of its members and leader Maryam Rajavi. She again heaped praise on the MEK and its leader.
Gjebrea’s open support for the group is shocking for several reasons. Not least because the MEK is a highly controversial group with a violent background. The entire MEK was forcefully transferred from Iraq to Albania by the Americans to satisfy Iraqi demands to rid their country of the final remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime. Even up until 2016 the MEK were linked to insurgents like Al Qaida in Iraq and Daesh. America paid several million dollars to Albania’s government and promised help to de-radicalise the terrorists.
This did not happen. Instead of de-radicalisation, the organisational structure which had operated in Iraq for three decades was allowed to continue in Albania. The 3,000 MEK members were consolidated and isolated behind closed doors and shuttered windows in dedicated apartment blocks. This led to speculation about the future of the group. In rallies, such as the one Gjebrea attended, the MEK continues with its promise of regime change in Iran – which in the past the MEK has pursued through violence and terrorism. When John Bolton or Senator John McCain lobby for the MEK it is clear they are following an anti-Iran political agenda. But does Gjebrea share that agenda toward Iran? Does Albania? Politicians from both government and opposition would benefit from a more informed and thoughtful approach if they are not to antagonise Iran as a potential trading partner for their country.
But the really shocking aspect of Gjebrea’s support for the MEK can only be based either in ignorance or as a result of corruption. It is well known that the MEK operates as a mind control cult. It is organised as a totalitarian system headed by an authoritarian leader who demands total unquestioning obedience from every member at every level. The group operates outside legal, moral or cultural norms. One of the defining characteristics of this cultic state – long exposed byexpert analysis of the evidence– is that the members are held in a state of modern slavery. They endure forced labour and forced military service. In a sense, they are modern day Gladiators, fighting not for the ancient Romans but for their modern masters, those who pay for the MEK as mercenaries.
Let us remind ourselves that Elona Gjebrea is Albania’s deputy anti-trafficking coordinator. Her role is to prevent slavery and trafficking. How then does she explain her support for modern slavery in Albania itself? When she praises Maryam Rajavi is she sincerely unaware that the cheering, flag waving, applauding audience are actually slaves who have no choice but to obey Rajavi’s dictates? Is she genuinely unaware that MEK members who have worked for decades without pay are still denied their individual UNHCR refugee allowance in Albania because it is paid directly to the MEK leader? Maryam Rajavi is no other than a slave gang-master.
Gjebrea is only one of several high-profile personalities who have recently succumbed to the persuasive lure of the MEK. But what huge irony that in her role at the Interior Ministry, she has not only failed to ensure that MEK members are de-radicalised and returned to normal life, she has endorsed and encouraged the continuation of their slavery in her own country. When such a shocking situation so openly exists, it is not hard to see why the parliamentary elections are so fraught with anger and disaffection. For a country so beholden to America for help and support, it is a shame better guidance cannot be proffered to get Albania’s democracy back on track.
GAZETA IMPAKT – May 18, 2017
Ndërsa zgjedhjet demokratike ecin përpara, zgjedhjet e ardhshme parlamentare të Shqipërisë janë aq keq sa s’bëhet. Protestat dhe trazirat kanë karakterizuar rrugën drejt zgjedhjeve të qershorit. Opozita zyrtare po vazhdon një bojkot tre mujor të parlamentit dhe po kërcënon të bojkotojë vetë zgjedhjet. Protesta është e rrënjosur në akuzat për korrupsion dhe njëanshmëri në qeverinë e Kryeministrit Edi Rama.
Problemet e vazhdueshme dhe me sa duket të pazgjidhshme me tregtinë narkotike dhe aleancat e drogës, trafikimin e armëve dhe të njerëzve, i hedhin më shumë benzinë akuzave për korrupsion. Politikanët nga të gjitha anët duken të paaftë për t’i zbuluar me sukses këto krime ose për të shpëtuar nga akuzat për bashkëpunim me to.
Një shembull i kompleksitetit të vështirësive të Shqipërisë mund të gjendet duke shqyrtuar aktivitetet e zv/Koordinatores Shqiptare kundër Trafikimit, Dr. Elona Gjebrea, e cila është gjithashtu zv/Ministre e Brendshme. Në mars të vitit 2017, Gjebrea ndoqi një konferencë të mbajtur nga qeveria e Uellsit dhe Shërbimi i Prokurorisë së Mbretërisë së Bashkuar, e cila u përqendrua në problemin e viktimave të skllavërisë shqiptare në Mbretërinë e Bashkuar. Viktima të skllavërisë moderne përfundojnë në Britani të Madhe nga Shqipëria më shumë sesa nga çdo vend tjetër – 17% e të gjitha rasteve në Mbretërinë e Bashkuar. Futja e Aktit të Skllavërisë Moderne në vitin 2015 në Britani të Madhe u ka mundësuar aktiviteteve dhe grupeve kundër skllavërisë përballimin e këtij problemi.
Në Shqipëri, Elona Gjebrea ka gjithashtu lidhje të ngushta me Shtetet e Bashkuara për çështjen e trafikimit dhe skllavërisë së njerëzve. Ambasada e SHBA-së në Tiranë pranoi raportin vjetor të Trafikimit të Personave të Departamentit të Shtetit në qershor të vitit 2016, që thoshte se “Shtetet e Bashkuara vlerësojnë bashkëpunimin e ngushtë me qeverinë shqiptare, shoqërinë civile dhe veçanërisht me Koordinatoren Kombëtare të Antitrafikimit, Elona Gjebrea, në qëllimin tonë të përbashkët të luftimit të fenomenit global të trafikimit të qenieve njerëzore”.
Në dhjetor të vitit 2016, Shtetet e Bashkuara ndanë një fond shtesë prej 3 milionë dollarësh për të mbështetur “sistemin e drejtësisë penale në Shqipëri në luftën kundër krimit të organizuar dhe korrupsionit”. Zv/ministrja e Brendshme Gjebrea përshëndeti marrëveshjen dhe burimet.
Deri më tani, shumë mirë. Shqipëria duket se po mban një qëndrim të fortë kundër skllavërisë moderne dhe SHBA-ja po i mbështet këto përpjekje. Por ka një anë tjetër në këtë histori. Më 16 janar 2017, Gjebrea, së bashku me disa personalitete të tjera shqiptare, morën pjesë në një koncert muzikor klandestin në Tiranë të organizuar nga organizata iraniane Mojahedin Khalq (MEK), e cila tani është e vendosur në Shqipëri. Gjebrea pretendoi se populli shqiptar ishte në “solidaritet me muxhahedinët”. Pastaj, në mars, ajo mori pjesë në tubimin e Vitit të Ri të MEK-ut me 3.000 anëtarët e tij dhe me udhëheqësen Marjam Raxhavi. Ajo përsëri vërshoi lëvdata për MEK dhe udhëheqësen e tij.
Mbështetja e hapur e Gjebresë për grupin është tronditëse për disa arsye. Jo më pak sepse MEK është një grup shumë i diskutueshëm me një sfond të dhunshëm. I gjithë MEK u transferua me forcë nga Iraku në Shqipëri nga amerikanët për të kënaqur kërkesat e Irakut për të çliruar vendin e tyre nga mbetjet përfundimtare të regjimit të Sadam Huseinit. Deri në vitin 2016, MEK-u ishte i lidhur me kryengritësit si Al Kaeda dhe Daesh. Amerika pagoi disa miliona dollarë për qeverinë e Shqipërisë dhe premtoi ndihmë për de-radikalizimin e terroristëve.
Kjo nuk ndodhi. Në vend të de-radikalizimit, struktura organizative e cila kishte vepruar në Irak për tre dekada u lejua të vazhdonte edhe në Shqipëri. 3,000 anëtarët e MEK-ut u konsoliduan dhe u izoluan mbrapa dyerve dhe dritareve të mbyllura në blloqe banimi të dedikuara. Kjo çoi në spekulime për të ardhmen e grupit. Në tubime, të tilla si ai ku mori pjesë Gjebrea, MEK vazhdon me premtimin e ndryshimit të regjimit në Iran – gjë që në të kaluarën MEK e ka ndjekur përmes dhunës dhe terrorizmit. Kur Xhon Bolton apo Senatori Xhon Mekejn lobojnë për MEK-un, është e qartë se po ndjekin një axhendë politike anti-Iraniane. Por a e ndan edhe Gjebrea këtë axhendë ndaj Iranit? Po Shqipëria? Politikanët nga qeveria dhe opozita do të përfitonin nga një qasje më e informuar dhe e mirëmenduar nëse nuk duan të antagonizojnë Iranin si një partner tregtar potencial për vendin e tyre.
Por aspekti me të vërtetë tronditës i mbështetjes së Gjebresë për MEK-un mund të bazohet vetëm në injorancë ose si rezultat i korrupsionit. Është e ditur mirë se MEK vepron si një kult i kontrollit të mendjes. Ai është i organizuar si një sistem totalitar i udhëhequr nga një udhëheqës autoritar i cili kërkon bindje totale të padiskutueshme nga çdo anëtar në çdo nivel. Grupi vepron jashtë normave ligjore, morale ose kulturore. Një nga karakteristikat përcaktuese të këtij shteti kultik – e ekspozuar gjatë analizës së provave nga ekspertët – është se anëtarët mbahen në një gjendje skllavërie moderne. Ata durojnë punën e detyruar dhe ushtrojnë detyrën ushtarake. Në njëfarë kuptimi, ata janë gladiatorë modernë, që luftojnë jo për romakët e lashtë, por për mjeshtrat e tyre modernë, ata që paguajnë MEK-un si mercenar.
Le të rikujtojmë se Elona Gjebrea është zëvendës koordinatore e anti-trafikimit në Shqipëri. Roli i saj është të parandalojë skllavërinë dhe trafikimin. Si e shpjegon atëherë mbështetjen e saj për skllavërinë moderne në vetë Shqipërinë? Kur ajo lavdëron Marjam Raxhavin, a është sinqerisht e pavetëdijshme se tifozët të cilët tundin flamujt, auditori që duartroket janë në të vërtetë skllevër që nuk kanë zgjidhje tjetër veçse t’i binden diktateve të Raxhavit? A është vërtet e pavetëdijshme se anëtarëve të MEK-ut që kanë punuar për dekada pa pagë, ende u mohohen pagesat individuale të refugjatëve të UNHCR-së në Shqipëri, sepse ato i paguhen drejtpërdrejt udhëheqëses së MEK-ut? Marjam Raxhavi nuk është tjetër veçse mjeshtria e një bande skllevërish.
Gjebrea është vetëm një nga disa personalitetet e profilit të lartë të cilët kohët e fundit i janë nënshtruar magjisë bindëse të MEK-ut. Por ç’ironi e madhe është që në rolin e saj në Ministrinë e Brendshme, ajo jo vetëm që dështoi të siguronte që anëtarët e MEK-ut të de-radikalizoheshin dhe të ktheheshin në jetën normale, por ajo ka miratuar dhe inkurajuar vazhdimin e skllavërisë së tyre në vendin e saj. Kur një situatë e tillë tronditëse ekziston kaq haptazi, nuk është e vështirë të kuptohet pse zgjedhjet parlamentare janë aq të mbushura me zemërim dhe pakënaqësi. Për një vend aq të vëmendshëm ndaj Amerikës për ndihmë dhe përkrahje, është një turp që nuk mund të ofrohet një drejtim më i mirë për të rikthyer demokracinë e Shqipërisë në rrugën e duhur. / © Gazeta Impakt
Some related documents:
Lets create another Vietnam for America(pdf).
(Mojahedin English language paper April 1980)
Letter to Imam (Khomeini) (pdf).
(Mojahedin English Language paper April 1980)
Some questions unanswered regarding the US military invasion of Iran (pdf).
(Mojahedin English Language paper June 1980)
link to one of the Mojahedin Khalq songs
advocating terror and killing Americans
(In Persian written and distributed after the Iranian Revolution)
National Geographic, March 04 2017:… Leading MEK members squirm under the knowing gaze of Michael Ware. Watch the shifty looks and glances as the MEK representatives try to lie about their true intentions. They admit to wanting regime change, but claim to be pacifists. Ware asks ‘Why does a political organization still need to have a para-military organization?’ He then cleverly gets them to …
Associated Press, February 16 2017:… The group at one point successfully infiltrated the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, according to a State Department report. And a series of bombings attributed to the MEK accompanied visits by presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter to Iran, including one to target an American cultural center. In 1973, MEK assailants wearing motorcycle helmets shot dead U.S. Army Lt. …
Iran Interlink, February 15 2017:… The following OpEd by MEK advocate Col. Wes Martin was published first in The Hill, followed by Mojahedin Khalq’s “Iran Probe” and the “NCRI” websites. Iran Interlink has published it here as indication of how hysteria has become the new normal in American published writing. A form of madness appears to have infected US politics and now all and sundry are dancing …
Massoud Khodabandeh, Huffington Post, February 07 2017:… He also signals that his war is not with ISIS but with the country Iran. Donald Trump rose to victory in part on the promise to take on ISIS and defeat the group. Yet ISIS cannot be defeated except by a coalition of forces that includes Iran. The facts on the ground in Syria and Iraq demonstrate unequivocally that ISIS forces in Aleppo and Mosul have been defeated largely due to the involvement
Gazeta Impakt, Albania, Translated by Iran Interlink, January 01 2017:… According to Fatos Klosi, former director of the National Intelligence Service, the American CIA chief has warned Albania that Donald Trump will renounce support for the MEK terrorists and it will be the Albanian Government itself which must deal with internal security and must confront a group trained militarily from the time of Saddam Hussein …
Massoud Khodabandeh, Huffington Post, December 24 2016:… That can only happen if journalists and investigatory bodies (human rights, nuclear experts, war crimes, etc) are able to base their work on facts and not the fake and fictionalised fantasies of stooges like the MEK, which are clearly designed to misinform on these issues. The information laundry cycle is not difficult to follow – the Washington Times takes its report …
Massoud Khodabandeh, Huffington Post, November 12 2016:… In particular, Rudi Giuliani, John Bolton and Newt Gingrich. Putting aside their weak personalities as well as their individual neoconservative agendas, the common thread which links these names together is their decade long support for the Mojahedin Khalq terrorist organisation (also known as Saddam’s Private Army or Rajavi cult). It is certain that …
Iran Interlink, October 30 2016:… Local observers in Tirana are reporting that the Mojahedin Khalq cultic terror group (MEK) is buying and creating several sandwich and kebab shops in the city and is using the MEK members to work in these fast-food businesses. On the surface this may look like a positive move. In an article titled ‘Albania: What would a de-radicalization program for the Mojahedin Khalq involve’, it was …
Anne and Massoud Khodabandeh, Iran Interlink, October 16 2016:… In spite of American promises, no de-radicalisation programme is in place to deal with over 2500 members of the Mojahedin Khalq terrorist group who have relocated to Tirana from Iraq. The MEK has a long history of violent and criminal activity. This has not stopped now they are in Tirana. Unless the Albanian government introduces its own programme, it must accept …
Anne and Massoud Khodabandeh, Huffington post (and Top Topic), October 09 2016:… For the local citizens, mystery surrounds their arrival and their lifestyle. Should these secretive and covert neighbours be treated with suspicion or kindness? At a local level, the first thing neighbouring families need to be aware of is that among all MEK members, sexual relations have been banned for over 25 years. This means there are no marriages or children or young people in the organisation. More troubling …
Massoud & Anne Khodabandeh, Huffington Post, July 14 2016:… Whether Rajavi is already dead or now killable is not known – only he can answer this – but he and his whole organisation are certainly now, body and soul, in the capable hands of the Saudi Prince. If he is still alive, Rajavi’s only role is to act as go-between to instruct his wife what she must do on behalf of the Saudis. If he is dead
Massoud Khodabandeh, Huffington Post, July 08 2016:… Clearly this message is not aimed at Iranians. The clamour for regime change in Iran does not emanate from inside the country in spite of its many social, civic and political problems. Who then is Maryam Rajavi’s constituency? Fro
Massoud Khodabandeh, Toptopic, July 03 2016:… So, back to the recent advertising campaign. Any publicity campaign will be successful if it is newsworthy. Maryam, however, simply churns out the same scenario ad infinitum. Starting with describing a terrible situation in Iran – based on news items that can be gleaned from any serious report